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fine, and in parts admirable. This, indeed, is only to say that he played it. But it was not one of his finest parts, nor indeed one in which we expected him to shine preeminently; but on that we had not depended, for we never know beforehand what he will do best or worst. He is one of those wandering fires, whose orbit is not calculable by any known rules of criticism. Mr. Elliston's Pierre was, we are happy to say, a spirited and effectual performance. We must not forget to add that Mrs. M'Gibbon's Belvidera was excellent, declaimed with impassioned propriety, and acted with dignity and grace.
MR. KEAN AS LEAR.
London Magazine (No. VI.), June, 1820. We need not say how much our expectations had been previously excited to see Mr. Kean in this character, and we are sorry to be obliged to add that they were very considerably disappointed. We had hoped to witness something of the same effect produced upon an audience that Garrick is reported to have done in the part, which made Dr. Johnson resolve never to see him repeat it— the impression was so terrific and overwhelming. If we should make the same rash vow never to see Mr. Kean's Lear again, it would not be from the intensity and excess, but from the deficiency and desultoriness, of the interest excited. To give some idea of the manner in which this character might, and ought to be, made to seize upon the feelings of an audience, we have heard it mentioned that once, when Garrick was in the middle of the mad scene, his crown of straw came off, which circumstance, though it would have been fatal to a common actor, did not produce the smallest interruption, or even notice in the
house. On another occasion, while he was kneeling to repeat the curse, the first row in the pit stood up in order to see him better; the second row, not willing to lose the precious moments by remonstrating, stood up too; and so, by a tacit movement, the entire pit rose to hear the withering imprecation, while the whole passed in such cautious silence that you might have heard a pin drop. John Kemble (that old campaigner) was also very great in the curse; so we have heard, from very good authorities, and we put implicit faith in them. What led us to look for the greatest things from Mr. Kean in the present instance, was his own opinion, on which we have a strong reliance. It was always his favourite part. We have understood he has been heard to say that "he was very much obliged to the London audiences for the good opinion they had hitherto expressed of him, but that when they came to see him over the dead body of Cordelia, they would have quite a different notion of the matter." As it happens, they have not yet had an opportunity of seeing him over the dead body of Cordelia ; for, after all, our versatile manager has acted Tate's Lear instead of Shakespeare's; and it was suggested that perhaps Mr. Kean played the whole ill out of spite, as he could not have it his own way—a hint to which we lent a willing ear, for we would rather think Mr. Kean the most spiteful man, than not the best actor, in the world! The impression, however, made on our minds was that, instead of its being his master-piece, he was to seek in many parts of the character; that the general conception was often perverse or feeble, and that there were only two or three places where he could be said to electrify the house. It is altogether inferior to his Othello. Yet, if he had even played it equal to that, all we could have
said of Mr. Kean would have been that he was a very wonderful man; and such we certainly think him as it is.
Into the bursts and starts and torrent of the passion in Othello this excellent actor appeared to have flung himself completely; there was all the fitful fever of the blood, the jealous madness of the brain; his heart seemed to bleed with anguish, while his tongue dropped broken, imperfect accents of woe; but there is something (we don't know how) in the gigantic, outspread sorrows of Lear, that seems to elude his grasp, and baffle his attempts at comprehension. The passion in Othello pours along, so to speak, like a river, torments itself in restless eddies, or is hurled from its dizzy height like a sounding cataract. That in Lear is more like a sea, swelling, chafing, raging, without bound, without hope, without beacon or anchor. Torn from the hold of his affections and fixed purposes, he floats a mighty wreck in the wide world of sorrows. Othello's causes of complaint are more distinct and pointed, and he has a desperate, a maddening remedy for them in his revenge. But Lear's injuries are without provocation, and admit of no alleviation or atonement. They are strange, bewildering, overwhelming; they wrench asunder, and stun the whole frame; they "accumulate horrors on horror's head," and yet leave the mind impotent of resources, cut off, proscribed, anathematised from the common hope of good to itself, or ill to others-amazed at its own situation, but unable to avert it, scarce daring to look at or to weep over it. The action of the mind, however, under this load of disabling circumstances, is brought out in the play in the most masterly and triumphant manner; it staggers under them, but it does not yield. The character is
cemented of human strength and human weaknesses (the firmer for the mixture); abandoned of fortune, of nature, of reason, and without any energy of purpose or power of action left-with the grounds of all hope and comfort failing under it but sustained, reared to a majestic height out of the yawning abyss, by the force of the affections, the imagination, and the cords of the human heart-it stands a proud monument, in the gap of nature, over barbarous cruelty and filial ingratitude. We had thought that Mr. Kean would take possession of this time-worn, venerable figure, "that has outlasted a thousand storms, a thousand winters," and, like the gods of old, when their oracles were about to speak, shake it with present inspiration—that he would set up a living copy of it on the stage; but he failed, either from insurmountable difficulties, or from his own sense of the magnitude of the undertaking. There are pieces of ancient granite that turn the edge of any modern chisel, so perhaps the genius of no living actor can be expected to cope with Lear. Mr. Kean chipped off a bit of the character here and there, but he did not pierce the solid substance, nor move the entire mass. Indeed, he did not go the right way about it. He was too violent at first, and too tame afterwards. He sunk from unmixed rage to mere dotage. Thus (to leave this general description, and come to particulars) he made the well-known curse a piece of downright rant. He "tore it to tatters, to very rags," and made it, from beginning to end, an explosion of ungovernable physical rage, without solemnity or elevation. Here it is; and let the reader judge for himself whether it should be so served.
Hear, Nature, hear; dear goddess, hear a father
To make this creature fruitful: "
Now this should not certainly be spoken in a fit of drunken choler, without any "compunctious visitings of nature," without any relentings of tenderness, as if it was a mere speech of hate, directed against a person to whom he had the most rooted and unalterable aversion. The very bitterness of the imprecations is prompted by, and turns upon, an allusion to the fondest recollections; it is an excess of indignation, but that indignation, from the depth of its source, conjures up the dearest images of love; it is from these that the brimming cup of anguish overflows, and the voice, in going over them, should falter, and be choked with other feelings besides anger. The curse in Lear should not be scolded, but recited as a Hymn to the Penates! Lear is not a Timon. From the action and attitude into which Mr. Kean put himself to repeat this passage, we had augured a different result. He threw himself on his knees, lifted up his arms like withered stumps, threw his head quite back, and in that position, as if severed from all that held him to society, Hear, nature, hear; Dear goddess, hear! Suspend thy purpose, if Thou didst intend to make this creature fruitful!